Chip Kelly’s career at Oregon started off as a disappointment; the Ducks lost his first game at Boise State, and then his star running back LeGarrette Blount was suspended for the year for punching a Boise State player who had said racially insinuating remarks to him.
Since then, Kelly hasn’t looked back. And now, for the first time in Oregon football history, Kelly has Oregon ranked the consensus No. 1 in the nation.
After Blount was suspended for the year, Kelly’s outlook looked bleak. Blount was thought to be a Heisman contender—someone that Kelly would be hard-pressed to replace. Kelly turned to LaMichael James, a redshirt freshman, to carry the team. And James, along with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, did much more than that.
Kelly’s first year ended in success, but disappointment.
For the first time in nearly twenty years, Oregon made it to the Rose Bowl. After years of domination by USC, Kelly’s Ducks were the first to break through and win the Pac-10 outright. Unfortunately for Kelly, Jim Tressel’s Ohio State Buckeyes proved to be too much for Oregon’s smaller and faster defense. They ended up losing Kelly’s first trip to a BCS bowl, 26-17.
Kelly has been called the most innovative offensive coach in the nation—working first as Oregon’s offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach. Now, a year-and-a-half in, his Ducks have college football’s most prolific offense, leading the nation with 54.3 points and more than 530 yards of offense per game.
Some of this accomplishment is the system, but much credit goes the players.
Much of this success has come because of the efforts of the halfback James. Despite missing a game this season due to suspension, James is fifth in the nation with 848 yards rushing and tenth in the nation with 7.4 yards per attempt. And he’s even more fun than that to watch.
Kelly’s innovative style fits perfectly with James’s elusive style of running; Kelly has adapted the Oregon offense to use a very successful version of the option, giving James many carries when the defense is simply not prepared.
Tonight the Ducks play at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, against the UCLA Bruins. If the Ducks win tonight, they should be No. 1 in the BCS and the nation.